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An elephant swims across the river as the sun sets.

Africa: the word just makes you think of a lion chasing a zebra. You can’t help it. So it’s not surprising that of the top attractions for tourists to Africa are safari excursions. The safari industry has exploded in the past few decades— but as the popularity of safari trips rises, so do prices.

If you’ve got an excess of adrenaline, but don’t want to break the bank, read our ultimate guide to safari-going in this adventure-traveller's paradise.

Location

Location, location, location. If you are visiting one of the larger African cities, like Cape Town or Johannesburg, there is a wide range of amenities and accommodations available to you—from bare bones to luxury living.

If a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience is what you’re seeking, go ahead and book your safari with one of the prominent tour groups in the larger cities. If you are concerned with cost, though, large cities may not be for you, as they typically have higher demand and higher prices. When you are looking for a better budget option, opt for a more rustic experience and travel to a smaller town. You can often find locally-run camps in small villages that accommodate you in homes. But beware, as scams artists can use small villages as a mask.

Amenities

Probably the most important decision of your Safari concerns what type of amenities you are looking for. If you are looking for just a quick-drive safari and want to save money, opt for a self-drive instead of a guided tour. You can save a ton of money when you aren’t paying for someone to talk to you. If you are taking a self-guided safari, do ensure to read all available maps and safety pamphlets—the last place you want to get lost is next to a hungry hippo.

If you are on a budget, look for national park lodging—it’s a pretty basic experience, but the prices are significantly reduced (rooms start around NZ$70). You can also save money by traveling off-season; book in advance and ensure you get the best deals. For physically-fit penny pinchers, head north a bit to Botswana for a fantastic selection of walking safaris.

Deluxe camping experiences can get you back to nature without risking your safety—but be prepared to shell out for these. Rooms for luxury safari campsites can start at around NZ$1,000 per night. If money is no object (don’t we all wish), then look for a safari that lets you have your own private accommodation right on the savannas.

Safety

Don’t forget to fact check when taking a safari. Has the company had any past incidents? Did other travellers have a good experience? Is there a good chance you will be eaten by a lion? Get a fair deal, but also don’t scrimp on safety. Many safari parks have online reviews. You can also ask the locals once you get there, but chances are this might be too late to cancel your reservation.

Safaris can be magical, and beautiful, and educational—but they can also be dangerous. Don’t leave home without a travel insurance policy from Cover-More. Whether a flamingo takes your hat or a rhino hits your truck, a policy with Cover-More ensures you will be covered for all of life’s unexpected challenges on your trip.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jon Rawlinson